In her inaugural lecture Elizabeth Buettner juxtaposes migration histories from former empires with intra-European movements and re-settlements of peoples, exploring the different ways that these have transformed Western Europe in the decades since the Second World War.
‘Post-colonial’ immigration—that is, inward and return migration from Western Europe’s overseas empires in Asia, Africa, and the West Indies above all—was not the only large-scale migration pattern that changed the face of Western Europe during the post-1945 decades when empires became transformed into arenas of crisis, collapsed, and ultimately were followed by a lengthening postcolonial aftermath.
By the 1960s and 1970s, what had often been ‘open door’ policies vis-à-vis colonial and ex-colonial subjects (which were often facilitated by common citizenship) became replaced by policies designed to exclude migrants from the ‘Global South’ that were implicitly if not explicitly ‘racial’ in character. Western European societies grew more and more multicultural, but were typically anxious and hesitant (if not hostile) about the impact of postcolonial peoples at the local and national level.
Alongside migratory movements into Western Europe from other continents, however, were cross-border flows within Europe itself, both from East to West and from South to North and West. Like late- and post-colonial migration, intra-European migration looked different and had different meanings at distinct moments across the post-1945 era.
This inaugural lecture aims to provide a treatment that is both comparative and transnational, considering end-of-empire and post-colonial topics alongside those arising from Europe’s own transformation en route to a European Union that cannot be isolated from wider forms of globalization. By examining thematic issues of urgent importance as Europe contemplates its current refugee crisis, Buettner hopes to provide a longer-term perspective that historicizes contemporary concerns.
E.A. Buettner, professor of Modern History: Worrying about Migration: Episodes in Western European History since 1945.